June 18th, 2005

munkacsy_parc_monceau

Darkest June Night Ever

These clouds must be monstrously thick, or dense. Even before the moon set, they transmitted very little of its light. Once it had gone, the sky became so dark that the bulky, jagged outlines of the trees could barely be discerned. For a while, the landscape was visited by a thin fog, which could not be seen except by a shaft of light which escaped a window, but the scent of which filled the cold air. A wind rose now and then to make the pines moan. A few crickets emitted soft chirps between long pauses. No more rain has fallen, but the hours were drenched in an atmosphere of melancholy. Naturally, I've relished it all. So rarely does a late spring night present such a gothic demeanor, that I have spent scarcely an hour indoors, preferring to shiver outside and absorb the exotic mood. I'm sure the cat, curled near the heater vent, thinks I'm crazy. She's probably right.

A pallid dawn now approaches, bringing me great hope of a dreary morning and dismal, wan day. Could I be any more delighted? Is this not the best spring weather ever?
caillebotte_the orangerie

Five O'Clock Sun

A glow begins to emerge, one patch of the tumbling gray sky turning white. There is a sudden streak of blue, which slowly expands, and then the sun is revealed. The world, which all afternoon had been shadowless, fills with contrasts. Light flickers from breeze-rustled leaves, flowers leap from green shade to flaunt their bright color, and dark pickets appear on the ground east of fences. The west fronts of houses grow less flat as eaves and molding etch them with shady lines. Lawns are dappled with fluttering patterns of trees. The air remains cool, but the sunlight is summer warm. More swaths of bare sky appear, and the masses of cloud show blinding white flanks, while their gray undersides take on a bluish hue. A hawk appears overhead, flying at treetop height, and glides on the thermal rising from the rapidly warming pavement. My cat emerges from some secret napping place, scampers across the lawn to scratch the trunk of the mulberry tree, then rolls a few times in a warming patch of bare dirt in a flower bed. I hear a thrush singing. Sunlight is always best when it surprises.
hindenburg

Link to Impending Disaster

Here is an opinion piece in The Economist, in which the editors anticipate a collapse of the housing market sooner, rather than later, and around the world, not just in a few nations. In fact, price declines are already underway in Britain and Australia. Prices are not yet declining in California, though, even in this backwater. A few days ago, I picked up a copy of one of those real estate magazines they give away around here, and was astonished to discover that some rather ordinary local houses, of the sort built for eight or ten thousand dollars in the 1950s, on lots that then cost two thousand or so apiece, are currently selling for a third of a million.

Even accounting for inflation, the increased value of the land due to the growth of the town, and the value of any upgrades to the houses themselves and of the town's public facilities, these places are probably selling for at least double the amount one would expect in a rational market. Over the last year, prices in Sacramento, the region's metropolis, have risen even faster than they have here, despite the fact that sales there have already begun to flatten out (indicated by the fact that houses put on the market are taking longer to sell.) I'm wondering how long this bubble can be sustained, and whether it will burst in the major cites before it does so here. Sales in this place are dependent on sales in the cities, as so many local buyers are transplants who have cashed out their houses in the metropolitan areas. The economy here practically runs on that infusion of capital. If it dries up, this town is screwed.